Summer Activities for Children
School's Out, Now What?
School is no longer taking up your children's day. They are at home and constantly under foot. Their repeated demands to be entertained are starting to make you question why you love these sweet angels. What can they be doing that they will enjoy and that you can approve of?
I have some project suggestions, which, if they don't keep your children busy all summer, will, hopefully, at least spark more ideas. So, in an effort to maintain the sanity of parents everywhere here are my ideas.
Make a Little Garden
"There's such a lot 'o room in that big place , why don't they give her a bit for herself, even if she doesn't plant nothin' but parsley an' radishes? She'd dig an' rake away an' be right down happy over it." (The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett)
If you have the room in the backyard you can give your children a bit of earth or buy a small planter. Seeds and child sized gardening tools are relatively inexpensive. Plus they can occupy themselves with their own garden while you tend to yours.
I gave my daughter a few flower seeds and a few vegetable seeds. However, it looks like only the vegetable seeds are going to come up.
If your children are older you can give them up couple of small pots and let them experiment. Which fertilizers make the plants grow best? How much water should the plants be given?
Another option is to create a butterfly garden. Choose nectaring flowers upon which butterflies feed and should their gardens grow your children will have butterflies to chase.
Even if nothing grows there is something satisfying about digging in the fresh earth. Plus when you add a little water you have mud, and, though messy, it will keep kids entertained for some time.
- Pot or small planter
- Packet of seeds
- Shovel and/or spade
"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts." (Author Unknown)
Provide your children with a scrapbook and let them create their own family history. Have them start with themselves and write about their ideas of the important events. It can provide some interesting insight into your children as well as your family.
If your children are too young to research the family they can still have fun with this project. Instead of writing about their ancestors, they can write about the extended family. What are their cousins, aunts and uncles doing? It is also a good way to reconnect with family.
- Acid-free pens
- Pictures of family
- Stickers (optional)
- Additional acid-free paper (optional)
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." (John Muir)
Depending on your children's ages and the amount of time you want to invest you can help them create a journal of their observations of nature with leaf and bark rubbings, pressed flowers and lists of the animals they've seen. Then take them to the library or let them do a little internet surfing to find out more about the plants and animals their saw.
If your children are too young for that level of a project, you can show them how to use leaf rubbings to make art. Or give them a little glue and let them make a collage of the items they collected from nature.
- Journal or art paper (thin paper for rubbings and thicker paper if they are creating a collage)
- Pencil or crayons
- Glue (optional)
I am sure you've seen the Fandango commercials with the rather irritating lunch bag puppets. We may find them irritating but children enjoy the creativity and control of having a puppet.
Let them loose with some lunch bags, glitter, pom-poms, felt, markers and glue and they can make themselves a host of puppet characters. Leave them overnight to dry.
The next day you can create a puppet "stage" by cutting a hole in a large cardboard box. Then your children can use their own puppets to tell their stories. It's always fascinating to hear what they have to say.
- Paper lunch bags
- Glitter, sequins, pom-poms, felt, or other puppet making scraps
- Large cardboard box
Collage of Me
"The outward man is the swinging door; the inner man is the still hinge." (Eckhart)
Get some poster-board and let your children create a collage of themselves. Supply them with plenty of old magazines, whatever art supply remnants you have available, markers and plenty of glue.
For a more educational and less self-reflective twist, you can ask them to create a collage of a current or historical event. What does it mean to him that Columbus discovered America? How does she think the Great Depression shaped America?
- Old magazines
- Miscellaneous art supplies
"And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow." (G. K. Chesterton)
Invite some of your children's friends and/or cousins to come over with their bicycles or tricycles. Then have the children decorate their bikes with balloons and streamers to create "floats" for a parade.
Invite all the parents over to watch and cheer as your children parade down the sidewalk. If you plan ahead you can end the evening with a potluck dinner and maybe some sparklers for the kids.
- Bicycle or tricycle for each child
- Sparklers (optional)
"The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization." (Frank Lloyd Wright)
Who says gingerbread houses are only for Christmas? Your blooming architectural geniuses can create their masterpieces on any day. Plus if you use club crackers and peanut butter you can feel a little better about their in-between meal snacking. It's also a good idea to have a camera handy to capture their masterpieces for posterity.
- Sturdy cardboard covered in foil or large plate
- Club crackers
- Peanut butter or cheese spread
- Celery, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, almonds, goldfish crackers, pretzels and other similar decorating items
- Camera (optional)
"An obstacle is often an unrecognized opportunity." (unknown)
If you want to burn off some of your children's excess energy an obstacle course is a great way to go. However, if you get a large group of kids together they can often spur each other on to greater and greater feats of daring. As an added option you can buy ribbons to award your children for their success.
Here are some easy obstacle course suggestions. If you ask your children I'm sure they can think of plenty more.
- the one-leg hop - you can make this more difficult for older children by requiring them to balance an object in a spoon as they hop to the finish line
- Jump rope drills - you can test speed and/or dexterity with a good jump rope
- limbo - two chairs and a two-by-four and you have limbo or you could get the children to take turns holding the jump rope as a limbo bar
- find and retrieve - set out some kitchen chairs and/or folding chairs, put down a few objects for the children to find, then cover the chairs with a large blanket
- wheelbarrow races - one child is the wheelbarrow and the other child holds up his or her legs so they can race the "wheelbarrow" across the finish line